Joe Wertz

StateImpact Oklahoma

Joe has previously served as Managing Editor of Urban Tulsa Weekly, as the Arts & Entertainment Editor at Oklahoma Gazette and worked as a Staff Writer for The Oklahoman. Joe was a weekly correspondent for KGOU from 2007-2010. He grew up in Bartlesville, Okla., lives in Oklahoma City, and studied journalism at the University of Central Oklahoma.

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In June, Oklahomans will vote on State Question 788, a ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana, and many people are asking – how has this worked in other states?

Who has legalized medical marijuana?

Sue Ogrocki/AP

Scott Pruitt, the current head of the Environmental Protection Agency, first came to national prominence back when he was Oklahoma's attorney general. In that role, he sued the agency he now runs 14 times, in a series of court cases alleging overreach by the federal government.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

The Sunday before Scott Pruitt's confirmation hearing to run the Environmental Protection Agency, Pruitt stood on the stage of his hometown church, bowed his head, and prayed.

"I stand on a platform today with a man of God who's been tapped to serve our nation," said Nick Garland, the Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church in Broken Arrow, Okla.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

As Donald Trump's EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt is popular with conservatives for his aggressive rollback of Obama-era environmental regulations. He has also been strongly criticized for alleged ethics violations. But there’s another side of Pruitt that’s less well known.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Updated Wednesday, April 18 at 10:05 a.m.

Residents of Seiling and Oakwood were evacuated in northwest Oklahoma yesterday, as large fires grew due to high winds, low humidity, and drought conditions.

But officials with Oklahoma Forestry Services say new fire starts were kept to a minimum yesterday, despite the historic fire weather conditions.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter on Monday released an audit and other documents related to a corruption probe his office fought to keep secret.

The records stem from an investigation launched in 2011 of the Lead-Impacted Communities Relocation Assistance Trust, which was set up to buy contaminated properties and relocate residents near the Tar Creek Superfund site, a former lead and zinc mine in northeastern Oklahoma.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Updated 5:25 p.m.

Public schools from every corner of the state closed their doors today as teachers walked out of the classroom and marched at the Oklahoma capitol to protest years of cuts to education funding.

Last week, Governor Mary Fallin signed the first statewide tax increase in nearly 30 years to give teachers a roughly $6,100 raise. The nearly $450 million deal increased taxes on cigarettes, fuel and oil and gas production in hopes of heading off the teacher walkout.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Senate is now considering a package of bills to increase tax revenue to give raises to teachers and public employees. Among the targeted increases are taxes on oil and gas.

On Tuesday, the energy industry showed up to the capitol to rally against the proposal.

Outside the capitol, oil-field workers arrived early in the morning to set up and stoke enormous trailer-pulled grills and smokers to feed the public and legislators, and remind them of the oil industry’s status as a top job-maker.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Monday ruled a proposed state question that would ask voters to approve tax hikes on oil and gas production to help fund education can move forward.

The proposed State Question 795 was written by a group called Restore Oklahoma Now, which is led by a former president of the OIPA. It would ask voters to end discounts on many wells and impose an across-the-board 7 percent tax on oil and gas production to fund teacher raises and early childhood education.

Oklahoma Corporation Commission

The widow of one of the five men killed in a natural gas rig explosion in January has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the well operator and drilling contractor.

In a lawsuit filed in Pittsburg County, Dianna Waldridge, the widow of 60-year-old Parker Waldridge of Crescent, accuses Red Mountain Energy and Patterson-UTI Energy and two of the companies' subsidiaries of negligence.

The rig was drilling near the town of Quinton, 100 miles south of Tulsa, when it caught fire and exploded on January 23.

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